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Dr. Rijuta (Breast Cancer): Nothing Can Replace Family Support

Dr. Rijuta (Breast Cancer): Nothing Can Replace Family Support

I am an anesthesiologist. I have anesthetized many cancer patients and given treatment for pain, but somehow I never thought that I would be on the other side of the spectrum someday.

Breast Cancer Diagnosis

I was regular about my other health check-ups, but mammography was not something I did regularly. One day, I felt a lump in my breast, and I knew I needed to do something about it immediately. I was doing yoga, exercises, jogging, and preparing for a trek, but still, the lump appeared. My husband is a doctor, so within half an hour, I told him about the lump, and we needed to do something about it as it didn't seem normal. I went for the biopsy the very next day. The biopsy reports came, and it turned out to be infiltrating ductal carcinoma, which was ER PR Her2 positive, meaning Triple Positive Breast Cancer."

The first thing that came to my mind was that now that this has happened, it needs to be dealt with. Because just thinking about why it happened would not help me, as nobody has the answer to why these things happen. It is something that hits you; you are going about in your life, and then suddenly you get this shocking Breast Cancer diagnosis. It's like you are driving your car, and somebody comes and hits you. You don't know what to do, but then you go to the doctor, the doctor explains everything, and the things sink in. Initially, you just want the most radical Surgery done, but then doctors tell you what is right for you and what is not. You feel that you have lost control in your life, but then as the doctors and the family help, gradually you start coming back to your stable self.

Breast Cancer Treatment

My treatment involved surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Along with chemotherapy, I also had trastuzumab therapy for about a year. Trastuzumab is a drug that flags the cancer cells to our immune system so that our immune system can catch hold of those cells and destroy them. Since it was a hormone-positive growth, I was also given hormone suppression in the form of Tamoxifen. The current guidelines are saying that Ecosprin helps prevent recurrence, so the doctors also started Ecosprin since it is ER-PR positive. I am 53, so it was almost perimenopausal. The doctor asked me for other surgeries to remove the ovaries. I underwent hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, which was done laparoscopically two months after the chemotherapy was over.

The surgery was a conservative breast surgery, so it wasn't so painful, and it didn't affect my physical appearance, thus it didn't affect my lifestyle. However, chemotherapy made a difference because I had to restrict myself for three months. I couldn't go out, and I was restricted in my physical exercise. I was working throughout my chemotherapy as it was weekly chemotherapy. People shouldn't be scared of treatment. All my colleagues were supportive and caring to me. The chemo-port made a tremendous difference for me because there was no pain in my hands. I think the chemo-port helps you bear the chemo in a better way. Later, it was radiation for three weeks. I didn't have many side effects. I followed the instructions, and my medicines helped me avoid nausea and vomiting. I always did yoga and exercised, and it helped me a lot.

The treatment got over in June. All the processes had started in May-June last year, so it took almost a year to complete the treatment. I am continuing with my tamoxifen and Ecosprin now and going for regular check-ups.

One significant change in me is that earlier I used to keep myself very busy with work, but now I try to give myself more time and follow some hobbies. I have gone back to books and music. I continue to listen to good music, read books that I like, and go for walks.

Family Support

You need a lot of support from your family. I got support from everywhere. I believe that nothing can replace family support. The family carries you forward throughout the whole period.

Trust your doctor, trust the people who care for you and trust your family. Don't hide it from your family because they will be there for you throughout the period. They will be there for you in your best and worst of your periods. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful family and doctors.

Parting Message

It would be best if you took away the fear factor that you have from the C-word. Please don't feel afraid to say cancer; it's like any other disease. It's as bad or as good as any other disease, so don't have prejudice, don't think it is the end of life. Go to the doctor, discuss it with them. Take your treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to a good prognosis. Take care of yourself and love yourself because that is very important.

Women should pay attention to themselves. Self-examination is something that has to be done once a month. Self-examination, along with mammography, should be done regularly. It has to be annual mammography plus self-examination monthly. Be very critical about yourself because that is going to take you a long way in life. The earlier you detect, the better the results. Rather than being very emotional about it, one should have a more practical approach to it. Don't waste your valuable time in going into denial or not recognizing the signs. Take treatment, seek medical attention, and seek help rather than just sitting on it or worrying about it.

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